Three students have been arrested for allegedly launching recent bomb threats against schools in Alachua County, and more arrests are expected soon, authorities said.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office executed several search warrants last week in Newberry, and a total of seven bomb threats have been reported at schools in the county, said Art Forgey, a spokesperson for the County’s office. sheriff.
The threats disrupted teaching in affected schools, as students, teachers and staff had to be evacuated each time, according to authorities and school officials.
“These are very serious,” Forgey said. “Different people or children may think this is a joke or that it is funny, but it is very serious.”
Young people aged 15 and 17 have each been arrested after allegedly launching bomb threats at Newberry High School and Oakview Middle School, respectively, last week. The suspects are both dating Newberry High and are still in custody, Forgey said.
The 15-year-old is charged with two counts of fake bomb threats and three counts of using a communications device to launch them and one count of threatening a shooting massive. The 17-year-old faces three counts of fake bomb threats and three of using a communications device, and one of threatening a mass shooting.
Another 17-year-old student was arrested on September 13 after making several bomb threats recently at Buchholz High in Gainesville and will be charged and tried as an adult, Forgey said. Charged with false bomb threats, possession of cocaine and using a two-way communication device to commit a crime, he faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The sheriff’s office did not disclose how each of these threats was reported, citing the ongoing investigation. At least two of the threats also involved gun violence, and threatening messages were shared on Snapchat with the students after the threats occurred.
On September 25, high school students received this message from Snapchat during their evacuation: “I’m going to shoot if you don’t get everyone out of West Park.” I see you all. I have a sniper. I will shoot. CLASSES.”
The next day, the students received this Snapchat message, according to the Gainesville Sun: “I’m coming for all of you high school students !! I head for the track after blowing up the college. Hope you are all ready. Be prepared hehehe guys. I have tips and tricks to blow everyone up.
“They were terrorist in nature,” Forgey said.
Leaders from every county law enforcement agency and state attorney’s office met last week to address the increase in gun violence and threats at school, a- he declared.
The sheriff’s office has specially trained detectives to deal with explosives. An assistant is also assigned to an FBI squad to provide advice on the investigation.
For parents, these threats resurface their greatest fears.
Bryon Gindlesperger was visiting his mother’s home in Bell, Gilchrist County, when he received a text from Oakview Middle that there had been a bomb threat at the school. When he picked up his son, a sixth grader there, he learned that there was also a sniper threat.
Gindlesperger said the bomb threats didn’t bother him as much as hearing his daughter – a grade 10 student at Newberry High – that they included gun violence.
“By not including this information from the school, school board, or sheriff’s office, it hinders my ability to make appropriate decisions regarding the safety of my children,” Gindlesperger said.
Other parents also complained that they were not informed about threats in their children’s schools.
Tabitha Jones first heard the news from her daughter, a grade 11 student, who texted as she was evacuated from Newberry High. Her brother is a ninth grader there and was also evacuated.
With the most recent threats succeeding each other, students and teachers have remained nervous.
Her daughter told Jones that when the intercom went off during the first period one day last week, the students physically backed up and grabbed their bags. It was just the morning announcements.
Jones said the district needs to do a better job communicating threats to parents as they arise.
“I’m not so worried about the bomb threat,” she said. “I feel like it’s more of a kid’s joke, but when they go to a shootout it’s more of a concern to me as a parent. Firearms are more accessible to many people, even children.
Public schools in Alachua County communicate with the district security chief and law enforcement partners at all times, said Jackie Johnson, a spokesperson for the district. Johnson also said the district was not always able to share all the information it might have.
“What we always try to do is protect the safety of students and staff, while not endangering any kind of investigation or prosecution after an event,” she said.
Dorothy Thomas, president of the Oakville Middle School Parent / Teacher Organization, said parents should urge their children to share whatever information they have on this matter.
“There are absolutely kids out there who know what’s going on,” Thomas said.
Many parents wonder what the rest of the school year will bring after this week.
“My biggest fear is that if these threats continue, we get to a point where we don’t take them seriously,” Thomas said. “Then one of them ends up being real.”